Al Mohler Pontificates on the Origins of the Culture War

KavanaughWho “started” the culture wars?

Recently some members of the Evangelical left called for a “pause” to the culture wars.  Evangelical women want Congress to reject the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination and appoint a more moderate justice.  Read about their efforts here.

Meanwhile, Al Mohler, the conservative evangelical president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has told PJ Media that such efforts are “doomed to failure.”  Here is a taste of Tyler O’Neil’s piece:

“The ‘Call to Pause’ is just the latest effort by the Evangelical left to blame the culture war on conservatives,” Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), told PJ Media Sunday. He insisted that the “Call to Pause” is doomed to failure, and more likely to damage the reputations of its supporters than to achieve any cultural or political change.

Here is more:

Mohler fought back against the idea that conservative evangelicals are to blame for the culture war. “It was liberals who pushed the new ethic of personal autonomy and sexual liberation, and it was liberals who championed legalized abortion and celebrated the infamous Roe v. Wade decision in 1973,” the SBTS president told PJ Media.

He noted that “you can date organized evangelical involvement in American politics to Roe v. Wade,” noting that the conservative evangelical movement was largely a reaction to the Left’s culture war coups achieved by the Supreme Court. This became even more clear in light of Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which supercharged conservatives’ emphasis on the Supreme Court.

“Now, just after the nomination of a clearly conservative judge, Brett Kavanaugh, as the next justice of the Supreme Court, the evangelical left is predictably opposing the nominee, and calling for a ‘pause’ in the culture war,” Mohler noted. “Amazingly enough, those behind the ‘Call to Pause’ are transparent about their fear that Roe v. Wade might be reversed, or even that abortion rights might be curtailed.”

A few thoughts:

  1. Mohler is often at his dogmatic worst whenever commenting on sexual politics.  I do not expect Mohler to agree with the evangelical women who oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination, but why does he have to come across as such an authoritarian ecclesiastical strongman whenever the issue he is addressing involves evangelical women?  One thinks he might have learned something about the voices of women in his denomination.
  2. Mohler pins the entire culture war on Roe v. Wade.  While this Supreme Court case played an important role in mobilizing the Christian Right, it is much more complicated than this.  But nuance, of course, will not help Mohler and his friends win the culture wars.
  3. Mohler continues to operate on the old Christian Right playbook for winning the culture wars.  If we nominate the right Supreme Court justice, the playbook teaches, the problem of abortion will go away.  For some context on this playbook see Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

2 thoughts on “Al Mohler Pontificates on the Origins of the Culture War

  1. A few thoughts:
    1. I don’t get the sense that Mohler is coming off as an authoritarian ecclesiastical strongman here. Of course, that’s probably influenced by the fact that my views are close to his. The fact that you see him as a strongman is probably related to how your views differ from his. That’s the interesting problem with reducing ideological differences to sociological factors, which I take to be a significant part of your analysis in Believe Me, based on what I have seen you write on your blog here: it substantially reduces thoughtful discussion of ideas and policies to a supposedly dispassionate analysis of social conditioning.
    2. Speaking of nuance, you don’t take a nuanced view of how Mohler discusses the Roe v. Wade decision. He doesn’t “pin the entire culture war” on it, he just points out that major evangelical political involvement was jumpstarted by the decision.
    3. “Political playbook” is an emotional phrase designed to negatively describe political tactics. Every group has political tactics. Why are these to be labelled in a way that makes them look bad? PS Saying that the playbook says that “if we nominate the right Supreme Court justice…the problem of abortion will go away” is not a nuanced take on the way conservative evangelicals see the problem. They (I should say we) realize there is a whole legislative mess and battle that will follow closely on its heels.

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    • Regarding point three, and understating that anecdotal evidence is no evidence, I must point out that 99% of self-described evangelicals that I am aware voted for President Trump make this exact argument.

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